I was sad to read of the passing of Gary Ellis this morning.
In the spring of 1995, after spending two years on the Island, and beginning to plant tentative roots, Catherine and I decided that we’d outgrown our apartment, and realized that we had the financial wherewithal to support a modest mortgage, so we started looking for a house.
I was driving down the Colville Road one day and spotted a house just past Clow’s Red & White that had a for sale sign on it; I looked it up when I got home, and found it was for sale for $33,000, which seemed rather amazing all things considered. Floyd Buell was the realtor, and I called him up and arranged a viewing. As we found years later when I made the acquaintance, through other means, of the next-door neighbour, the house had in fact been constructed from the rubble of an old house on the lot next door; it was a touch too ramshackle for us, so we moved on.
But we took Floyd with us as our real estate agent, and over the following weeks we looked at a lot of really, really horrible houses in our price range. Houses with basements full of water, houses with half-complete renovations and fibreglass insulation leaking out everywhere, houses much too far from town for Catherine, not a driver, to imagine living in.
And then Floyd showed is a house in downtown Kingston, around the corner from that original house that had set us down this path. It was close to town, in need of some love, but not irredeemable, and came with a tiny sliver of land.
We put in an offer. It was refused. We countered. Refused. We walked away.
Two weeks of radio silence later, the sellers came back to us with a reasonable proposal, and we accepted.
The sellers were Gary and Teresa Ellis.
We moved in on July 1, 1995 and lived there for a very happy 5 years. Catherine built a studio–still standing–in the back yard. We planted trees. Replaced the septic system and the furnace. Kept a garden. Met the neighbours. Got very familiar with the stretch of the Kingston Road into town, to the point where I could have likely navigated it blindfolded.
While we’d never met Gary or Teresa during the purchase process–the real estate industry thrives on keeping buyers and sellers dispassionately apart–the next time I went to get my car fixed at Canadian Tire, he ended up, by happenstance, as my mechanic, and we did a little bit of the “oh, so you’re…” dance.
I’d see Gary every now and again at the garage, until, a few years later, he opened his own place up toward Emyvale, and after that we most reliably ran into each other at the New Year’s Levees every January 1, like clockwork.
I didn’t know Gary well, but he always had a smile on his face, he was a kind and patient mechanic, and I always enjoyed starting out a new year by shaking his hand.
He will be missed.